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Raceday: Your guide to the Toyota Owners 400

- jutter@charlotteobserver.com
Friday, Apr. 26, 2013

Three things to watch

1. Kyle Busch has won the last four spring Cup races at Richmond and there is no reason to think he couldn’t extend that streak to five this weekend.

2. Clint Bowyer has yet to win a race this season but he is the most recent race winner at Richmond.

3. Thanks to Matt Kenseth’s penalty this week, Kevin Harvick is just three points out of the Top 10. With a strong track record at Richmond, he could easily cross that threshold this weekend.

Observations

• There’s been a lot of discussion in the past few days that Toyota should somehow bear more of the responsibility for the penalties assessed to Joe Gibbs Racing this week for having a connecting rod below the minimum weight requirement. Gibbs gets its engines from Toyota Racing Development and thus plays no role in their construction, the theory goes. JGR made a conscious decision to shut down its engine department and let someone else construct its engines. With that decision came the loss of some quality control – its own pair of eyes. The only way JGR or any other team can be absolutely sure each part is as it wants it to be is to have its own hand in preparing them.

• Whatever the outcome of JGR’s appeal of the NASCAR penalties to Matt Kenseth’s team, it seems unlikely it will have any effect on the organization or Kenseth’s season. The No. 20 team – and JGR in general – has performed so well in the first eight races, there is little reason to think performance won’t continue to be as good or better as the rest of the season plays out.

• It was 10 years ago this race Jerry Nadeau suffered what turned out to be a career-ending head injury in a wreck during a Cup series practice session at Richmond. Nadeau, then 32 years old, spent 22 days at Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center before being transferred to the Charlotte Institute of Rehabilitation for further therapy. He had one career victory to his credit (Atlanta, 2000). Nadeau lives in Davidson, N.C., with his wife and daughter.

Best bets

Three picks for your fantasy team:

Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski

Notes

Kenseth wins the pole: What NASCAR took away, Matt Kenseth won back.

As part of a penalty for his engine failing post-race inspection earlier this week, Kenseth lost his eligibility for next season’s Sprint Unlimited race when his pole award at Kansas was disallowed. Kenseth regained that invite Friday when he won the pole for Saturday night’s Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway.

Kenseth’s track-record lap at 130.334 mph was good enough to best Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Brian Vickers. Jeff Gordon qualified third, Kasey Kahne fourth and Clint Bowyer fifth. Series points leader Jimmie Johnson will line up 26th.

Vickers held the previous record, 129.983 mph set in 2004.

Could Hamlin sit out longer?: Denny Hamlin says if he has to sit longer then the race at Darlington, S.C., he may consider getting corrective surgery for a bulging disc problem and sit out an extended period of time.

“Obviously, if it goes part Darlington our chances are crushed even harder,” Hamlin said. “Eventually you have a shutdown point of not going out there and racing for nothing at a point.

“Eventually you have to know the paint at which you’re looking at improbabilities of making the Chase and just being smart about it.”

Gifford earns first win: Ryan Gifford picked up his first victory in NASCAR’s K&N Pro Series East Thursday night at Richmond, holding off Brandon Gdovic for the win.

Gifford, 24, drives for Rev Racing, which fields entries for NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program. He is the fourth driver to win for the team since it began in 2010.

Annett’s return put on hold: Nationwide Series driver Michael Annett, who broke his sternum in the season-opening race at Daytona, had hoped to return to action next week at Talladega, Ala. Doctors, however, said Annett needs more time to recover and his return has been put on hold.

Race facts

Where: Richmond (Va.) International Raceway

Track type: ¾-mile slightly banked, paved tri-oval

Race distance: 400 laps, 300 miles

Weather: Sunny with high in the low 70s.

TV: Coverage begins at 7 p.m. Fox. Green flag is 7:46 p.m. ET

Radio: Motor Racing Network

Utter: 704-358-5113; Twitter: @jim_utter
More racing news, blogs, photos and more at www.ThatsRacin.com.

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